RM 1 for a doctor’s visit

I daydream of going home, where healthcare is universal.

Where I pay RM1 (USD 0.25) for a visit to the primary care doctor and RM5 for a referral to a specialist. A place where I don’t have to worry whether I should Uber to the ER or instead pay $500 for an ambulance. Health care is guaranteed and more importantly, shouldered by the government for each citizen. 

Last November, I ate with Mak Ngah (aunt in Malay) and her colleagues in New Jersey. She works for the Ministry of Health in Malaysia and is actively involved in the current pandemic. As I sat next to her eating microwaved briyani, she explained to me that her work is like the “FBI and CSI of outbreaks” in Malaysia. Then, her colleagues begin discuss about the epidemiology conference that they just attended. Things were normal. This was in 2019.

A month later, the outbreak in China begins.

Come March and April 202o.

14,000+ cases in Michigan. Malaysia on the other hand, a country twice the size of Michigan has 3,400+ cases. I’m not sure I have the words to express my shock that a developed nation, the self-proclaimed “greatest country in the world” has a sub-par healthcare system to Malaysia. I simply don’t. 

A few months ago I came to the ER department in Michigan Medicine. Though I was pleased by the service and excellent care, I balked at the cost of co-pay after insurance covered the ER visit. It was $75.

I could pay that. I’ll just have to take up an extra shift or two at work. Oh wait… the Uber was $19. Sigh.

Imagined if that happened this year when I automatically became unemployed. Gasp

What happens to the ones who can’t afford? Who lives and who dies? Who tells their story? I’m not going to claim that the healthcare system is perfect in Malaysia but the fact that I take it for granted  means that I am truly privileged to be doing so. It is an afterthought. I would have never in a million years guessed that my right to heal is a luxury.

Two years ago, I returned to Malaysia for an internship and upon knowing I needed to go to the doctor, I fretted about paying another $75 until my friend simply reassured me saying “Sarah, going to the doctor is RM1 here lah”. 

It’s just one ringgit.

(Credits: Mak Ngah, Hamilton Musical lyrics.// Image credits: Google Images)


senior studying economics + psychology. occasional writer, ambivert, and can be found in coffee shops

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